Rays connect again as Arozarena, Paredes homer in win over White Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — The wins, of course, are the most important thing, and the Rays on Tuesday extended their streak to five straight with a 5-1 victory over the White Sox.

The City Connect uniforms have gotten a nice bump in attention, as the Rays’ fortunes turned with Friday’s debut of the gray-and-back, neon-accented, skateboard-themed threads. They have taken them off only to be washed, with plans to wear them again on Wednesday.

But what also matters, in a very good way, is how the Rays are getting there: by playing much better baseball, seeing several of their big-name players step up and getting contributions from throughout the roster.

“I 100% agree,” manager Kevin Cash said. “It just it feels like we’ve kind of turned the dial or the volume up a little bit with the intensity and the energy.”

Tuesday, that included a strong seven-inning outing by Zach Eflin, home runs by a warming Randy Arozarena and Isaac Paredes, some highlight plays in the field by infielders Richie Palacios and Jose Caballero, and just about everyone having a hand in the win as the Rays got over .500 at 19-18.

“It’s something I mentioned before, like, we were kind of waiting to click on all cylinders, all three phases of our game — offense, defense and pitching,” Eflin said. “It feels like it’s starting to turn our way a little bit. Balls are starting to fall a little bit. Weak contact against us is starting to be caught for outs. It’s not going to last forever, right? But it’s something that we need to ride out as long as possible and continue to come out with that energy.”

Eflin did his part, scattering six hits, getting out of what trouble he had and picking up his first win in more than a month.

“Really good stuff, really good command,” Cash said. “He made some big pitches when he had to.”

Though not as important, Eflin pitched with only a mustache after shaving his beard following the 1-5 road trip to Chicago and Milwaukee in an attempt to change the vibe.

“Things weren’t going great, so you’ve got to switch it up a little bit every now and again,” he explained. “I got the approval from my wife (Lauren). She said, ‘You’ve got to do it for the boys.’ She’s not very fond of it. She never likes the mustache. So, to get her permission was awesome. It’s working so far.”

And if it lightened the mood, that was good, too: “I know I’m pretty embarrassing-looking with it,” Eflin said. “But self-embarrassment brings laughter, laughter bring smiles, and smiles are contagious, so ... "

Arozarena recently switched back to his 2023 walkup song. Otherwise, his changes have been slight adjustments with his hands to overcome his brutal start at the plate.

Tuesday’s 363-foot homer, capping a nine-pitch at-bat off Michael Soroka that started with two swing-and-misses, was Arozarena’s third in his last five games. By going 1-for-3, he nudged his average to .152.

Arozarena, via team interpreter Manny Navarro, said he feels “just a little bit” more like himself. But there are still more boxes to check, such as having a multi-hit game (his only two were March 29-30). “When I get two hits in one game,” he said, “that’s when I’m going to start feeling better.”

Paredes, however, was willing to give him more credit.

“That looks like it’s the Randy that we all know,” he said, via Navarro. “And it just seems like he’s picking up his rhythm a little bit.”

Cash had a similar take. “I think we’re seeing a guy that is starting to feel a little bit better about himself,” Cash said. “He got a breaking ball up in the zone, (a) 3-2 pitch that when Randy’s right he does that quite a bit with those pitches.”

Paredes is on a bit of a hot streak of his own, with Tuesday’s 3-for-4 showing his sixth multi-hit game in his last 12. He also has an eight-game on-base streak (including walks in his last five) and ranks among the top 10 in the league in home runs.

After going five series without a win, the Rays have won two straight and have a chance on Wednesday for a payback sweep of the MLB-worst Sox, who took three from them April 26-28 in Chicago.

You can be sure they will be wearing the City Connect uniforms again.

“I think we’d be pretty stupid if we didn’t‚” Eflin said.

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